Part 5 of Special Report: Why He Chose to Leave this Good Land?

Posted November 21st, 2014 at 4:18 pm (UTC-5)
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Despite a string of military defeats and international isolation, Al-Shabab remains a visible force in parts of Somalia. In this September 2014 photo, Shabab militants staged a show of force in a town near Mogadishu, just before they were driven out. (VOA/Radio Al Furqaan)

Despite a string of military defeats and international isolation, Al-Shabab remains a visible force in parts of Somalia. In this September 2014 photo, Shabab militants staged a show of force in a town near Mogadishu, just before they were driven out. (VOA/Radio Al Furqaan)

Our colleagues at VOA have recently produced Why He Chose To Leave This Good Land? a  special report on the radicalization of some young Somali-Americans. This week, we have focused on one section of the article each day.

Please note that this report is not adapted to the Special English style, so it is more appropriate for advanced learners who use our site.

You can read the full report at http://projects.voanews.com/isis-recruit-somali-americans/ 

Today’s quote is from the final section, called, A lone wolf mission, you know the rest.

Several years ago, both Sheikh Omar and Sheikh Hassan endorsed the call for jihad, for people to join the fight against the Ethiopians, a call that Hassan maintains was justified.

“To wage jihad against Ethiopia when it invaded the country was obligatory, if there is doubt in anybody’s mind,” Hassan said at a VOA roundtable discussion September 16. “That was a legitimate jihad.” … Sheikh Hassan has denied that any worshippers from the Da’wah Center have ended up in Syria. If they did, he said, he and his mosque weren’t responsible.

“The door of my mosque is open for everyone. We don’t ask people when they come, we don’t ask when we open the door: ‘Are you from ISIS or al-Shabab?’ When they leave, we don’t ask them: ‘are you going to al-Shabab or are you going to ISIS?’ We cannot ask,” he told VOA. “Anybody can come. Those who come, as you say, one or two may go, we are not responsible and we don’t tell people to go and kill others. We tell the opposite.”

Our question for today is:

How are radical groups recruiting young Muslims in the United States, according to this report? What do you think the community should do to counter that recruitment?

Please give us your answer in the comment section below. I sincerely hope that you have increased your knowledge and expanded your vocabulary by reading this special report with me this week.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Dr. Jill

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Words in This Story

crucible – n. a place or situation that forces people to change or make difficult decisions

hypocrisyn. the behavior of people who do things that they tell other people not to do; behavior that does not agree with what someone claims to believe or feel

ideology – n.  the set of ideas and beliefs of a group or political party

authoritativeadj. having the confident quality of someone who is respected or obeyed by other people

Part 4 of Special Report: Why He Chose to Leave this Good Land?

Posted November 20th, 2014 at 4:17 pm (UTC-5)
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Our colleagues at VOA have recently produced Why He Chose To Leave This Good Land? a  special report on the radicalization of some young Somali-Americans. This week, we are focusing on one section of the article each day.

Please note that this report is not adapted to the Special English style, so it is more appropriate for advanced learners who use our site.

Young people leaving the Islamic Da’waah Center in St. Paul, Minnesota

Young people leaving the Islamic Da’waah Center in St. Paul, Minnesota

You can read the full report at http://projects.voanews.com/isis-recruit-somali-americans/ 

Today’s quote is from the section called, Is it True You’re a Terrorist?

Last month, a Somali American man, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for trying to detonate a bomb at a holiday tree-lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon, in November 2010.  He was arrested after his parents told the FBI they feared he was becoming radicalized. Later, parents and relatives complained of entrapment, saying Mohamud had been lured into the bomb plot by FBI agents intent on arresting a terrorist.

“They stop you when you’re walking home from your job, ‘So I hear your name is Mohammed and you’re going to that mosque. Is it true that you’re a terrorist?’” said Yassin Mohamed Abdullahi, a 14-year-old studying at the Da’waah Center. “It’s things like that you know that cause this spark of anger, hatred, mistrust in between the two parties … the Somalis and the FBI.”

Our question for today is:

According to the report, what are other complaints about the relationship of Muslim immigrants to U.S. law enforcement authorities? What do you think about this relationship?

Please give us your answer in the comment section below, and come back tomorrow for another question.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Dr. Jill

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Words in This Story

harass – to annoy or bother (someone) in a constant or repeated way (harassment – state of being harassed)

surveillance - n. the act of carefully watching someone or something especially in order to prevent or detect a crime (surveilled - past tense verb form)

radicalizev. to cause (someone or something) to become more radical especially in politics

vigilant – carefully noticing problems or signs of danger

Part 3 of Special Report: Why He Chose To Leave This Good Land?

Posted November 19th, 2014 at 4:16 pm (UTC-5)
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Our colleagues at VOA have recently produced Why He Chose To Leave This Good Land? a  special report on the radicalization of some young Somali-Americans. This week, we are focusing on one section of the article each day.

Please note that this report is not adapted to the Special English style, so it is more appropriate for advanced learners who use our site.

Somali shoppers at a  specialized shopping mall in Minneapolis

Somali shoppers at a specialized shopping mall in Minneapolis

You can read the full report at http://projects.voanews.com/isis-recruit-somali-americans/ 

Today’s quote is from the second section, called State of failure:

Today’s quote is from the section called State of failure:

Like many Muslim groups in the United States, Somalis also faced hard suspicion after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

“Kids are being recruited. Yes, this is a fact. What are we going to do about it? We have to talk about the root causes that makes Somali kids vulnerable…. how do we fight poverty, bad school systems, the lack of opportunities,” Fartun Weli said. “The one thing we need to do is, if being Muslim can make us the worst victim in the United States, we have to make sure there are opportunities created for our community to exit poverty.”

For younger Somalis thrown into public school systems and dense neighborhoods like Minneapolis’ Cedar-Riverside, protection from outsiders came from gangs, like the “Somali Hot Boyz” and “Madhibaan with Attitude.”

While many Somalis have adapted slowly to American life, a sense of alienation persists for some, giving an opening for recruiters from Al-Shabab and Islamic State.

Our question for today is:

How does the report explain the connection between gang activity and radical militant recruitment? What do you think the authorities or community should do about the gang activity?

Please give us your answer in the comment section below, and come back tomorrow for another question.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Dr. Jill

____________________________________________________________________________

Words in This Story

alienationn. feeling that one no longer belongs in a particular group, society, etc

criminal recordn. a known record of having been arrested in the past for committing a crime

vulnerableadj. easily hurt or harmed physically, mentally, or emotionally

common denominator n. something (such as a feature or quality) that is shared by all the members of a group of people or things

 

 

Part 2 of Special Report: Why He Chose to Leave this Good Land?

Posted November 18th, 2014 at 4:14 pm (UTC-5)
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We are following up on the VOA Special Report on the radicalization of Somali refugees in the US.

 

While many Somalis have adapted slowly to American life, a sense of alienation persists for some, giving an opening for recruiters from Al-Shabab and Islamic State. In this September 27, 2013, file photo, young women play basketball before the start of a rally by the Minneapolis Somali community against terrorism. (Reuters)

While many Somalis have adapted slowly to American life, a sense of alienation persists for some, giving an opening for recruiters from Al-Shabab and Islamic State. In this September 27, 2013, file photo, young women play basketball before the start of a rally by the Minneapolis Somali community against terrorism. (Reuters)

Our colleagues at VOA have recently produced Why He Chose To Leave This Good Land? a  special report on the radicalization of some young Somali-Americans. This week, we are focusing on one section of the article each day.

Please note that this report is not adapted to the Special English style, so it is more appropriate for advanced learners who use our site.

You can read the full report at http://projects.voanews.com/isis-recruit-somali-americans/ 

Today’s quote is from the second section, called State of failure:

With the [Somali] government’s collapse in 1991 and the country’s descent into chaos, Somalis fled en masse, to refugee camps in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Yemen, then onto Europe and North America. More than 1.5 million scattered around the world. More than 50,000 now live in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region… But Somali families have suffered disproportionately from unemployment, poverty, mental health problems and crime. Community activists estimate as many as 3,000 Somali men may be in the criminal justice system—under arrest, imprisoned, on parole. Some 20 percent of Somalis lack jobs. Another estimate based on U.S. Census data found only 50 percent of working-age Somalis had jobs.

Our question for today is:

What does the report say are some of the root causes of the problems Somali refugees have in the United States? What do you think should be done to correct these problems?

Please give us your answer in the comment section below, and come back tomorrow for another question.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Dr. Jill

____________________________________________________________________________

Words in This Story

adaptationn.  the process of changing to fit some purpose or situation

disenfranchisementn. the state of feeling powerless; not having the rights of citizens such as the right to vote

jihad n. a war fought by Muslims to defend or spread their beliefs

infrastructuren. the basic equipment and structures (such as roads and bridges) that are needed for a country, region, or organization to function properly

Special Report: Why He Chose To Leave This Good Land?

Posted November 17th, 2014 at 5:08 pm (UTC-5)
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Minnesota's ethnic Somali population has mushroomed in the last two decades from a small group to more than 50,000. On September 27, 2013, hundreds, including Ilhan Issa, gathered at a solidarity rally in Minneapolis to protest terrorist attacks by Al-Shabab. (AP)

Minnesota’s ethnic Somali population has mushroomed in the last two decades from a small group to more than 50,000. On September 27, 2013, hundreds, including Ilhan Issa, gathered at a solidarity rally in Minneapolis to protest terrorist attacks by Al-Shabab. (AP)

Dear Readers,

Our colleagues at VOA have recently produced Why He Chose To Leave This Good Land? a  special report on the radicalization of some young Somali-Americans.

This week, VOA Learning English will post some quotes and ask for your comments on the article. Each day we will focus on one section of the article, to allow for in-depth reading and analysis.

Please note that this report is not adapted to the Special English style, so it is more appropriate for advanced learners who use our site. Each day we will give you a representative quote from the report and ask for your response.

You can read the full report at http://projects.voanews.com/isis-recruit-somali-americans/ 

Todays’ quote is from the introduction to the report:

When Dayib Ahmed Abdi and his family arrived in the United States in 1996, his son Abdifatah already had an independent streak… Late last year, Abdifatah, 29, abruptly left his families, and traveled to Britain, then Syria, joining the radical militants of the Islamic State as they began sweeping across parts of Syria and Iraq…He was the second American to die there.

“I was very sad when I heard it. ‘Why he would go to an Arab land?’ I asked myself,” Abdi told VOA. “They [Arab countries] don’t help us; instead the United States helped us. ‘Why he chose to leave this good land?’ I asked.”

Our question for today is:

Have you heard about refugee youth in the US and other countries being radicalized? Why do they leave their home to fight in Syria?

Please give us your comment below, and come back tomorrow for another question.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Dr. Jill

___________________________________________________________________

Words in This Story (these words are in the first section of the Special Report)

mushroom  - v. to increase or develop very quickly

solidarityn. a feeling of unity between people who have the same interests, goals, etc.

phenomenonn. something (such as an interesting fact or event) that can be observed and studied and that typically is unusual or difficult to understand or explain fully

counterv. to do something in defense or in response to something

What would you do with a $1,000 inheritance?

Posted November 14th, 2014 at 4:37 pm (UTC-5)
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1000dollarbillOur American Stories episode for this week is the O. Henry story, “One Thousand Dollars.” The main character, Gillian,  (spoiler alert!) gets an inheritance, $1,000.00, from his rich uncle who has died. But he is not too happy, because he knows his uncle was very rich and had “over a half a million,” according to a friend.

So our hero goes around asking his friends and people he meets in the street, “What would you do with a thousand dollars?” He gets some wild answers, ranging from sheep ranching to buying diamonds, to starting a bar.  In contrast to his uncle’s great wealth and Gillian’s small inheritance, he learns that the people who lived with his uncle each got only ten dollars. This seems like a cruel joke.

1900s-ten-dollar-legal-tender-note

Read the story to find out what he decides to do.

After you’ve read the story, you can write a comment here to let me know how you would spend the $1,000. If you’d like, you can apply the current inflation rate. When this story was written, $1,000 would go pretty far. It would be $26,315.79 in 2014 dollars.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Dr. Jill Robbins

#TravelThursday: Phrasal verbs all about travel!

Posted November 6th, 2014 at 2:44 pm (UTC-5)
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A mother, child, and grandmother speed up on a road in Sichuan province, China

Happy #TravelThursday, friends!

As you already know from studying English, phrasal verbs are everywhere!

Tomorrow on TALK2US, my friend Caty Weaver and I will be discussing phrasal verbs that are related to traveling.

I  thought I would give you a little preview here. Hopefully you can practice these phrasal verbs with us tomorrow (Friday) on Skype, from 1800 UTC to 1900 UTC. We’d love to hear from you!

Phrasal Verbs about Travel:

take off: when a plane leaves and begins to fly. (Example: My plane takes off at 5:45 p.m.)

set out: to start a trip or journey. (Example: I plan to set out at around 7 a.m. to avoid traffic)

held up: to be delayed, to be running late. (Example: I got held up going through security, so I almost missed my flight!)

pop in: to quickly visit a place. (Example: I might try to pop in to that new museum in the city).

check in: to arrive and register at a hotel or airport. (Example: You should check in to your flight at least one hour before it takes off).

stop over: to have a short visit in a place while on the way to your destination. (Example: I’m going to stop over in New York City on my way to Boston).

*Try to write a paragraph using some of these travel phrasal verbs. I’ll be glad to help you out if you aren’t quite sure what one means. And don’t forget to try out these phrasal verbs with us tomorrow on Skype!)

 

#TravelThursday – Wanderlust

Posted October 29th, 2014 at 5:12 pm (UTC-5)
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Sunday market in Hotan, Xinjiang, China

Sunday market in Hotan, Xinjiang, China

The word Wanderlust means a strong desire to travel and see the world. The term actually comes from the German words wandern (to hike) and lust (desire).

Wanderlust isn’t just about having a desire to travel and see famous landmarks. It goes deeper than that. It’s about wanting to experience, on a daily basis, a way of life that is unique to a city or region.

Do you have wanderlust?

For me, a strong sense of wanderlust led me to move to western China. I wanted to know a different part of the world. Wanderlust also led me to staying in China much longer than I had planned.

I must admit, I have felt a very strong sense of wanderlust while reading all of your comments on #TravelThursday blogs! Here are just a few of my favorite comments from readers describing their hometowns as well as their favorite places to visit.

I hope you enjoy them!

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giza pyramids, cairo, egypt

AP photo. Giza Pyramids, Cairo.

“Cairo is a historic city with plenty of ancient places to visit. However, Cairo is a modern city at the same time. The culture of Cairo is so rich because of the diversity of the people who have lived in the city. There are Muslims as a majority, and also Christians and Jews. So the city has Pharaonic, Islamic, Christian and Jewish ancient buildings. This richness in culture comes from the diversity of civilizations that emerged from the city in the past. The people of Cairo are so unique. Despite the difficulties they face in their lives and the economic state of their country, they have a good sense of humor. They laugh a lot and know how to enjoy their life and time. Despite the limitation in resources, they are masters at finding smart solutions for their problems.” -Aya Saad, Egypt

Alpine activities - Dolomites, north of Italy

AP photo, Dolomites

“Hello from Italy. I’m very lucky to live not far from the Alps and the Dolomites mountain range. I love to go hiking, but the best for me is enjoying the scenery from the top of the mountain. There aren’t a lot of people, so everything seems quiet and silent. I love autumn, when the air becomes cold, and everything is waiting for winter and show.” -Lisa Nuvoloni, Italy

“I live in Russia, north of the Arctic Circle. In my region, there aren’t big trees, only small ones. I like autumn because of all of the colorful trees. But this period is very short in my hometown, sadly. It’s my dream to see such bright and great forests.” -Zhanna Nord, Russia.

“My hometown is in Dong Nai Province. It is small; there are many fields for planting rice, and places for children to fly kites in the evening. The locals are very friendly, and we have a different lifestyle that sets us apart from other areas. Recently, my hometown has been changing rapidly because Vietnam’s economy is growing, as well as because of impacts of globalization. Anyway, I really miss my hometown. It is a memorable place and I will never forget many things I did together with my family and friends. I agree with you that “Some people may call it a flyover state, but I happy to call it home,” like you wrote. “There is no place like home.”    -Thaihuy Dang, Vietnam

AP photo, Hue palace

AP photo, Hue palace

“I would recommend you to visit my hometown, Hue City, Vietnam. It’s a small city, but very beautiful and peaceful, with a lot of delicious special dishes. This city is the old capital of Vietnam, and has become a travel destination for the rest of the world. Hue is renowned as a cultural and religious city of Vietnam. Welcome to Hue.”  -Thanh Xuan, Vietnam

 

#TravelThursday — Shenandoah National Park

Posted October 23rd, 2014 at 11:01 am (UTC-5)
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photo 4

photo by Anastasia Kolobrodova

One of the things I like most about living in DC is, well, leaving DC. A two-hour drive transports you to places like Shenandoah National Park, which feels a world away.

The colors of autumn are on full display in Shenandoah, which is about 120 kilometers southwest of Washington, DC. Every fall season, people flock to the park to hike in the mountains and take in the beautiful views of the surrounding Shenandoah Valley, in the eastern U.S. state of Virginia.

Last weekend, some friends and I went there to do exactly that.

The drive from the U.S. capital city to the national park takes less than two hours. However, the two places feel very far away. On the way, the road passes by apple and pumpkin farms, country diners, and small towns. The scenery is very different from the city streets of Washington.

Shenandoah is a popular place on the U.S. East Coast for leaf-peeping, an informal term for people who travel to view and photograph the autumn leaves as they change colors. It may seem funny to travel somewhere just to see the changing colors of trees, but leaf peepers are serious about it!

It was no surprise, then, when we got stuck in traffic at the entrance of the park, behind cars with license plates from all over the United States, and tour buses with groups from around the world. Our two-hour drive seemed like nothing compared to how far many other people came to see Shenandoah in the fall.

Sadly, we didn't see any black bears, but we did to take pictures with this fake bear!

Sadly, we didn’t see any black bears, but we did to take pictures with this fake bear!

Once we entered the national park, we drove along the famous Skyline Drive for a few kilometers. Some tourists come just to drive along Skyline Drive, a mountain road 200 kilometers long that provides beautiful views and a chance to see some of the wildlife, including black bears, deer, wild turkeys, and more than 200 kinds of birds.

Of course, my friends and I prefer to hike in nature rather than drive through it!

So, we got out of our car as soon as we could, looked at a trail map, and found a perfect hike nearby. We went through forest, passed an old barn, and enjoyed a beautiful panoramic view. As far as you could see, leaves were many different colors of yellow, red, and orange. It was easy to see why so many people travel to Shenandoah at this time of year.

shenandoah does

Autumn colors

In just a few weeks, of course, the leaves will fall to the ground, and autumn will turn into winter. Snow will cover Shenandoah’s mountains and forests. The bright colors of autumn will fade, and leaf peepers will have to wait another year for their favorite season.

I’m just glad I got there before winter did.

*Do you like hiking? Where is your favorite place to hike? Write about it below, using some of these Travel Words that may be new to you. I’ll be happy to help you out with your grammar and vocabulary!

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Travel Words

flock – v. to arrive in large numbers or quantities

view – n. the ability to see something or to be seen from a particular place

view – v. to look at or inspect

scenery – n. the natural features of a landscape

wildlife – n. wild animals

hike – v. to walk for a long distance, especially in the woods

panoramic – adj. with a wide view surrounding the observer

trail – n. a path along a mountain or through or a forest

Eight Writing Tips from Famous Authors

Posted October 20th, 2014 at 1:03 pm (UTC-5)
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I’ve been giving quite a bit of writing advice in this blog. But today, you’re going to hear directly from the masters. I’ve compiled what I think is the best writing advice for English learners from famous writers. Notice how similar their advice is. Do great minds think alike?

#GEORGE ORWELL1. “If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.”  George Orwell

George Orwell (1903-1950) was an English novelist, essayist, journalist, and critic. He is best known for his dystopian novels Animal Farm and 1984, two of the most influential novels of the twentieth century. Orwell touches on one of the secrets of good writing in English: use as few words as possible. A lot of students think that complex, flowery language is a sign of sophistication. It’s not.

 

Ernest Hemingway#2. “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” — Ernest Hemingway.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) was an American author and journalist. He is known for his simple, understated writing style. He is one of the most famous American writers of the 20th century and is known for works like A Farewell to Arms and The Old Man and the Sea. Hemingway is talking about how great writers suffer for their art. Hemingway suffered from severe depression and alcoholism. He killed himself in 1961.

 

MARK TWAIN#3. “Use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English–it is the modern way and the best way.” — Mark Twain

Mark Twain (1835-1910) was an American writer, humorist, and adventurer known for his witty, humorous style. His most famous works are Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. He had no patience for the flowery, romantic writing style that was popular in his time.

 

Zadie Smith#4. “Work on a computer that is disconnected from the Internet.” — Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith (1975- ) was born to an English father and a Jamaican mother. She rose to fame with her first novel White Teeth, published when she was just 22 years old. She has since published three more novels, all of which have received high critical praise. Obviously, Smith’s advice needs no explanation.

 

E.B. White#5. “Use the active voice. The active voice is usually more direct and vigorous than the passive.” — E.B. White

E.B. White (1899-1985) co-wrote, The Elements of Style, perhaps the most famous writing guide ever published. You can download the guide for free here. He also wrote the beloved children’s story Charlotte’s Web. White is talking about the weakness of the passive voice and how writers should avoid it. For example “I love you” (active voice) sound much more direct than “You are loved by me” (passive voice). You should avoid the passive voice unless you want to avoid mentioning who took the action.

 

Vonnegut#6. “Start as close to the end as possible.” — Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) was an American writer known for blending satire and science fiction. Among his best-known novels are Slaughterhouse Five and Breakfast of Champions. What Vonnegut means here is that good writing is concise. Your writing should be as short as possible without cutting important information.

 

Maya Angelou#7. “What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat,’…. And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.” — Maya Angelou 

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) was a poet and writer best known for her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Her work often centers around the problems of racism, identity, and family. Angelou refers to the “the muse” which is one of the nine Greek goddesses of songs and poetry. Artists often think of “the muse” as a spirit that gives them ideas. Angelou is urging writers to work hard and be patient, and good ideas will come.

 

Stephen King

#8. “2nd Draft = 1st draft – 10%” — Stephen King

Stephen King is America’s best-selling horror writer. His books have sold more than 350 million copies. Many of his books, such as Carrie, Misery, and The Shining, have been made into movies. In 2004, he published On Writing, a guide for writers. What King means here is that you should cut the number of words by 10 percent on each draft.

Notice how similar King’s advice is to Orwell’s and Hemingway’s. Cut. Cut. Cut. This is good news for English learners. Simplicity is not only easier, it’s usually better.

What do you think about these tips? Do you disagree with any of them? Leave a comment and let’s discuss!

– Adam

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Words in this Blog

dystopia - n. an imaginary place where people are unhappy and usually afraid because they are not treated fairly

understatedadj. avoiding obvious emphasis or embellishment

wittyadj. showing or characterized by quick and inventive verbal humor

satiren.  a way of using humor to show that someone or something is foolish, weak, bad, etc. : humor that shows the weaknesses or bad qualities of a person, government, society, etc.

muse – n. the genius or powers characteristic of a poet

 

996115_10152540824740552_2041911695251966795_nI grew up in Washington State (not Washington DC) USA and received my bachelor’s degree in print journalism. I have taught intensive English languages courses in Korea, Argentina, Indonesia, and the United States. After earning my master’s degree in English, I taught college writing courses at several universities. From 2012-2014, I was an English Language Fellow with the US Embassy in Jakarta, where I taught writing skills to Indonesian and ASEAN diplomats. Now I am working at Voice of America, where I produce multimedia content for English language learners.

About

About

Confessions of an English Learner is a place for you to practice your writing and share the joys and pains of learning the language. We will post a weekly prompt, to give you a chance to practice your writing and to comment on others’ writing.

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